As other First Tranche contributors have noted, Publish What You Fund’s 2011 pilot Aid Transparency Index represents a major step forward in the benchmarking of donor transparency practices. But what is it exactly that PWYF has accomplished with this latest index?
I would argue that one of most important contributions PWYF has made is to move the policy discussion beyond the simple question of “What information is available?” and towards the more fundamental question: “Is the information that shouldbe available actually available?” PWYF sheds light on the latter issue with detailed data for 58 organizations from 45 countries/IGOs. Their assessment examines three dimensions of each donor organization: organizational, country and activity level. At each level, PWYF has determined whether the organization collects and/or publishes commonly available information items, such as policy documents, country strategies, and details on project planning, implementation and evaluation. The complete methodology is available here.
PWYF's pilot Index also draws our attention to an area where there is tremendous scope for improvement: benchmarking the transparency practices of development finance agencies outside of the OECD-DAC. PWYF and their CSO/university collaborators gathered data largely from DAC agencies, but their methodological approach lends itself to inclusion of non-DAC agencies. In fact, some of the initial groundwork has already been laid by Michael Hubbard and Pranay Sinha at University of Birmingham. In their “Non DAC Donor’s Data Availability Index,” Hubbard and Sinha investigate the depth and quality of non-DAC data already available from the AidData.org web portal. They also provide information about the sources of the records published by AidData.
Hubbard and Sinha, “Non DAC Donor’s Data Availability Index”
Given that primary sources of information have been identified and a strong methodology for measurement is in place, the table is set for an industrious graduate student, junior faculty member, or CSO to begin collecting non-DAC data that are comparable with the (mostly) DAC data included in the PWYF assessment.
My colleagues and I believe that including non-DAC development finance agencies in future benchmarking exercises would be a great service to the aid transparency policy discussion, as many of these countries (e.g. India, Mexico, and Russia) are currently establishing new agencies and working out how information will be gathered and published for years to come. Including these organizations in benchmarking assessments like PWYF’s 2011 Index would enable non-DAC agency leaders to track their own progress. It might also foster a bit of healthy competition.
Robert Mosolgo is an AidData Project Manager at the College of William and Mary. He oversees AidData's work with non-DAC development finance agencies.